Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady
By Andrew Goutman
The Electric Lady studio was Jimi Hendrix’s vision of recording utopia…”a “psychedelic lair, with curved walls, multicolored lights and sci-fi erotic murals to aid the creative flow.” Nestled in New York’s Greenwich Village, the studio was both the upshot of the great guitarist’s fantasy plus an antidote to the bad taste of a prior recording experience.
Along with John Storyk, the architect and acoustician who designed the studio, Hendrix was willing to jump through multiple hoops to create an environment that would break the mold for collaborative musical recording.
An opening party was held on August 26, 1970. But Hendrix would only spend four weeks in his new studio, making recordings in the final phases of construction. He boarded an Air India flight destined for London to be the starring attraction at the Isle of Wight Festival.
Jimi Hendrix died less than three weeks later.
The making of Electric Ladyland, Hendrix’s third studio album recorded at New York City’s Record Plant, did not go well. The studio fees for the lengthy sessions (one of rock’s first double albums) were “astronomical.”
Further, there was turbulence in the ranks: Chas Chandler, who had claimed to “discover” Jimi and had become his manager, bailed out halfway through the album’s sessions, even selling out his management shares. Hendrix and bassist Noel Redding endured several conflicts during recording; Jimi would often record the bass lines himself.
It is a supreme irony that in the midst of such conflict and chaos, Hendrix would create an absolute masterpiece. Among Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Albums, Electric Ladyland is #56.
When Hendrix made the decision to build his own studio, he probably couldn’t have imagined the difficulties that lay ahead. From Wikipedia:
Construction of the studio took nearly double the time and money as planned; permits were delayed numerous times, the site flooded due to heavy rains during demolition, and sump pumps had to be installed (and then soundproofed) after it was determined that the building sat on a tributary of an underground river, Minetta Creek. A six-figure loan from Warner Brothers was required to save the project.
In its 44 years of existence, the Electric Lady’s musician clients reads like an A-List of rock ‘n’ roll: Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin…more recently, sessions have included Eric Clapton, Coldplay, Rihanna and Sheryl Crow. But there is no doubt that the spirit of Jimi Hendrix is still felt in the brightly-colored soundproof walls. “For the first time, an artist was building a studio,” said studio designer John Storyk. “This was happening in a few pockets all over the world, but none more famous than here with Jimi.”
“All the studios you see today come from being a friendly place to make art,” added Robert Margouleff, who worked with Stevie Wonder in the ’70s. “That was what really came out of this studio.”